A new football team has come to Watts, but the coaches aren’t older brothers, fathers and uncles – they’re Los Angeles Police Department officers. And their players? All are age 9 and younger.
The team was created through a partnership between the Los Angeles Police Department and the city’s Housing Authority to test “relationship policing.” According to this Sandy Banks column in the L.A. Tmes, the officers who patrol the projects in Watts don’t just coach football, they coach track, take the kids on field trips, meet with teachers and keep tabs on grades and homework.
The goal of the program, which started two years ago, is to chip away at generations of suspicion that has existed between Watts residents and LAPD officers – while having fun. And indeed change slowly seems to be taking place. Parents of the young Bears say they are beginning to see officers as a symbol of protection rather than harassment.
“I thank God they came,” said Melody Culpepper, mother of 7-year-son Malachi Russ. “It changed the image that’s been in my head about the police.”
Click here for a link to the full Los Angeles Times article.